Passion and life in bronze

Rodin was on our honeymoon. Rodin is in our living room. He is on the night stand next to our bed. And, now, he is our next door neighbor! Marco and I have been in love with Rodin almost since the day that we fell in love. We did go to Paris on our honeymoon in 2000 and we spent our favorite day at the Rodin museum. Subsequently, we bought two museum replicas of his sculptures that we exhibit in our living room, L’âge d’airain and La Cathedrale. An art book of Rodin sculptures sits on the table in our bedroom. Next door to us, Rodin is our neighbor in the form of a wonderful traveling show through September 5, 2016 (click here for information).

We are so fortunate to live next door to Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)! We are few steps from a world-class museum that has its own wonderful collections and attracts fine exhibits. As Salem residents, we have free access to the museum. Over the years, this has given us the ability to pop in for a quick look at the latest show.

Matteo, our “renaissance man” benefits from this arrangement. Ever since his days in a stroller, we have been able to stop in and take a quick peak at whatever show is in town. This became just a normal part of our walk. Now that he is older, we can gander a bit more (though now we deal with teenage attitude). . .

Last weekend we stopped by. We have been to the Rodin museum in Paris several times. We visited the Rodin museum in Philadelphia. And, we’ve seen his sculptures in London and other travel stops. The exhibit at the PEM is organized by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with the Musée Rodin, Paris. This show recreates the spirit of his studio:  complete with canvas drapes, sketches Rodin drew before the plaster casts, plenty of finished art (even with his unique brand of beauty rising out of the rough stone), and live dancers mingling throughout the gallery space.

Here is L’âge d’airain:

Here is La Cathedrale:

La main de Dieu:

This is Marco’s favorite, Je suis belle:

And, of course, the thinker was on display at the PEM, but this photo is from our recent Christmas trip to Paris:

Enjoy the bella vita!

Pizza with roasted broccoli and egg

We have home-made pizza every Tuesday night. Matteo makes the dough (click here to see a video of him showing you how easy it is). I cook the topping. Marco rolls out the dough and prepares the pizza for the oven. Of course it doesn’t always go exactly like this, but many Tuesdays, this is our pattern. This kind of team work spreads the responsibility and keeps us connected.

The inspiration for the pizza pictured today came from a variety of sources, and, I’ll name at least two of them. The first source is Italy. Every time we go home, we are sure to eat a lot of pizza. One of my favorites is the classic pizza with asparagus topped with an egg. I had never heard of egg on pizza before, but the combination is quite satisfying.

The second source is from one of our favorite local restaurants that has a wood-fired brick oven imported from Italy. They make and excellent Naples style pizza in their oven and have an interesting and creative variety of pizza toppings. The restaurant’s name is Bambolina (click here for the website).  They make a pizza with roasted cauliflower, truffled egg, aged provolone and mascarpone. The cauliflower got me thinking about trying broccoli!

We’ve made the pizza with asparagus and egg, but we wanted to try with roasted broccoli. So, we simply pan roast some broccoli in olive oil with some garlic slices. We top the pizza with fresh mozzarella, pan roasted broccoli and then, once cooked we topped with an “emoji” egg. It can also be a poached egg, like they do at Bambolina, fried, or even over easy.

Marco has been into the emoji egg lately. He learned it from something called Chefsteps. It is a site that has brief videos that illustrate a recipe or cooking method. This particular style for cooking the egg uses a very low heat to gently fry the egg and leaves you with this beautiful perfect “emoji” like egg. Click here to learn how to make the emoji egg.

Buon appetito!

Aroma Taste Life

Recently, my mother remarked that Marco and I never seem to eat meat! This was based on her faithful reading of my blog (thanks Mom!!!). Marco and I do eat meat, but probably not as much as the typical American diet. As you can tell by the Bella Vita blog, our style of eating can be best described by the Mediterranean style of eating. In contrast, my mother’s generation was taught to believe that a meal is not a meal unless it has meat, potatoes, and vegetables.

The Mediterranean diet favors plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, as well as seafood, and poultry. It suggests limiting the intake of red meat.  Marco and I actually eliminated red meat several years ago after a particularly disturbing documentary about the production of cows and the fact that it takes so many resources to raise a cow. The diet also uses a good measure of olive oil! Food is often accompanied by a glass of red wine! In addition, exercise is encouraged as part of the natural moving about of everyday life.

We are most likely to eat meat during our Sunday lunch. This is the day that we love to spend the morning preparing our food and leisurely eating the results. It’s especially nice when a roast is in the oven. In this case, Marco found a recipe which a nice combination of lemon, garlic, and herbs giving off a pleasant aroma to our house. Roasting this chicken in the French Oven (Dutch Oven to most) made a tender, tasty chicken. The lemon garlic herb flavors were also sealed into the meat.

We found the recipe from the blog “Bowl of Delicious” and can be found by clicking here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 cloves garlic-3 minced, 2 cut in half
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary- 3 chopped finely, 1 reserved
  • 2 large onions
  • ½ stick butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Process:

  1. pre-heat oven to 475°
  2. prepare the rub by melting the butter; adding the minced garlic, chopped rosemary, zest of lemons, and salt and pepper to taste
  3. slice the onions thickly and place at the bottom of the French oven, saving the end scraps of the onions
  4. salt and pepper the inside cavity of the chicken
  5. cut the lemons in half, reserving the juice and rinds
  6. slather the butter mixture all over the chicken and under the skin, being careful not to tear the skin
  7. place the chicken in the French oven and stuff the cavity with the lemon rinds, onion scraps, remaining garlic, and rosemary sprig/stems
  8. tie the legs together with kitchen twine 
  9. pour the lemon juice over the chicken 
  10. roast for 15 minutes uncovered
  11. cut the heat to 350° and cook about 20 minutes per pound or until the inside temperature reaches 165°, basting half way through
  12. keep the cover off the French oven but if the chicken begins to burn and the inside temperature is not reached, feel free to cover

Just out of the oven:

The finished chicken cut with poultry scissors and placed on a platter:

We served the chicken with roasted carrots (click here), pan-roasted potatoes, and a little arugula.

Buon appetito!

You are what you eat

Yesterday I attended a talk by Dr. Mike Lara called “The Pharmacy in Your Kitchen: An Overview of Medical and Medicinal Foods” (click here for his Facebook page). I thoroughly enjoyed hearing more about a very specific aspect of healthy eating and healthy aging called medical foods. Medical foods are an FDA-regulated product, often prescribed by doctors, derived from naturally occurring compounds, most often in plants. The ingredients are also found in the foods that we have in our kitchens.

One example that most of us know about is omega-3 fatty acids that are found in salmon, seaweed, nuts, and other products. We also know the health benefits of this for heart health and brain health. These essential fatty acids are needed for metabolism and improve heart health, reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, improve brain function and decrease inflammation. One medical food that offers the omega-3 fatty acids is called Vascazen and is prescribed to help treat patients with an omega-3 deficiency with cardiovascular disease.

Another example that is increasingly in the news involves the importance of probiotics. Science is showing us that we have a problem in our bodies, most particularly, our guts, with a lack of the microorganisms we need, helping us stay healthy, fighting off disease (click here for a short cartoon from NPR that illustrates this nicely). Scientists suspect that this has resulted from increasing C-sections rather than natural births because the infant is coated with the microorganisms on the way out of the birth canal, and overuse of antibiotics and sanitizers. The “medicine” for this is fermented foods such as yogurt!…or sauerkraut, kimchee, or kefir. The medical food is V.SL#3 and can help patients with ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.

As a psychotherapist, I am particularly interested in the science about the foods we eat and their impact on mood and cognition. The foods we eat have the nutrients needed to support the neurotransmitters; the chemical pathways of communication between the cells in our brains. I always encourage my clients towards changing eating habits as one part of a healthy lifestyle. The most recent example is when a client reduced sugar and caffeine intake resulting in a better nights sleep. Of course, his mood also improved as he noticed less irritability and a lessening of his depression.

It was also interesting to learn more about the brain chemistry that will happen to all of us as we age. The simple way to put it is that our brains shrink as we age. This can also be seen when patients suffer from cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. One of the biomarkers in these conditions is an elevated level of homocysteine. Research is showing promise in the use of the B-vitamins lowering the homocysteine levels and thus slowing and in some cases reversing cognitive decline.

The last slide of the day was my favorite quote from Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  The presenter also extolled the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and, in that vein, I’ll share a recent side dish that we had during our Italian style Sunday lunch. The speaker didn’t address the benefits of carrots, but I wanted to share this tasty and healthy way to get some Beta-carotene, vitamins A, K, and B6 and lesser amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. The recipe is from that New York Times (click here).

Ingredients:

  • carrots
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano and thyme
  • parsley

Process:

  1. heat oven to 400°
  2. slice carrots to the desired size, about 2-3 inches and in halves or quarters based on the desired thickness
  3. toss with olive oil
  4. place in pan or baking dish in a single layer
  5. salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano to taste
  6. cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes
  7. uncover and if not tender, reduce the temperature to 375° and cook another 10-15 minutes
  8. when ready adjust salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with parsley

We enjoyed these carrots with roasted lemon garlic chicken, pan roasted potatoes, and arugula.

Buon appetito!